Months ago, while incubating my NYC social testing startup, CredSpark, I met an agent who said she was interested in my idea, and she thought we’d be a good fit to recommend to some of her more “teaching-minded” authors.
What an interesting distinction, I thought to myself. Aren’t all authors teachers, by definition, because they’re sharing insights?
In the intervening months, I’ve spoken with and about many authors, and it turns out, not all authors think of themselves as teachers. After 12+ years working in educational technology and educational publishing, that puzzles me. Perhaps it’s because we think of teachers as standing up in front of a classroom, or dealing with students, not grown-ups. Perhaps it’s because the moniker ‘author’ allows one to exist at a safe distance from the reader, vs. a ‘teacher’ who’s supposed to be just a few feet away from you, and burdened with the responsibility of your learning.
Regardless, I’d like to make the case that ALL authors can and should think of themselves as teachers, for three reasons:
1) Teachers Are Now Everywhere, So It’s Not A Big Deal.
In civilization’s distant past, teachers were the few storehouses and distributors of information and insights. The term ‘teacher’ therefore acquired a heavy burden of responsibility. Good News: Today, information and insights are to be found on every street corner, on your smartphone, as you wait for the light to change. That blogger you follow? Your favorite authors? They’re your teachers. Just a couple out of the hundreds of people who’ll teach you in a single month. So, Author: How many people have you taught this month?
2) The Time/Hassle of Teaching Readers Has Fallen Sharply.
Many of you remember reading books and consuming media in the 1980’s (or earlier.) Think how much time, effort, and expense was required back then for an author to share his or her insights with 1,000 people? As Becky Robinson of Weaving Influence will tell you, the audience reach available to authors these days—for a comparatively small amount of the author’s time invested in social media—is staggering. Your book contains your ideas; engaging with your fans and followers on social media is teaching your ideas—in an extremely time-efficient fashion.
3) Teachers Are The Most Engaging People In The World.
NYC subway cars contain terrific teacher recruitment ads: “You remember your 1st grade teacher’s name. Who will remember yours?” Those ads resonate because being taught by someone is about the most engaging experience you can have with that person. It sticks with you. You feel as though the trajectory of your life has changed to some degree. You remember them forever.
My plea to Authors: think of yourselves as Teachers.
By expanding your self-identity, you will expand your audience, and you’ll be more likely to change their lives. Which is what they secretly want you to do, when they pick up your book.
Lev Kaye is the founder of CredSpark, a new social media tool for authors to engage with and to grow their fans and followers. We use our background in educational testing to help authors create and publish very short, targeted online tests related to the author’s key ideas. Fans/followers take those tests and easily share them on social media, building the author’s audience, and learning more in the process. Having launched in January, CredSpark is growing quickly — and looking for more non-fiction authors to join. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.